Find Out How the Mullan Fire Will Have Lasting Impacts on Our Co - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

Find Out How the Mullan Fire Will Have Lasting Impacts on Our Community

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Superior made headlines across Montana this summer when the West Mullan Fire scorched nearly 63-hundred acres north of a small town.

ABC/Fox Montana's Emily Foster hiked through flat creek today, and found out how the West Mullan Fire may have lasting impacts on the cleanup of lead and arsenic in the area.

After the 2000 wildfire season in Superior, DEQ officials say mudslides washed contaminated mine tailings into Flat Creek. The state is still working on a risk assessment for the area, but they say there's a chance the West Mullan Fire will cause more debris flows over the next several years.

Montana Department of Environmental Quality officials say the mine tailings are leftover material from ore processing at the Iron Mountain Mine in the late 1800s, and contain toxic levels of lead and arsenic. State and federal agencies have been working on a two-part cleanup of the mine tailings since 2002. The first was the EPA cleanup of contaminants in residential areas.

EPA on-scene coordinator Duc Nguyen says they haul the tailings to a repository site north of town, where they're dumped into a cell 20 feet above groundwater, and buried under an evaporative cap. He also explained that they've cleaned up nearly 80 properties in town, and will complete the residential cleanup by the end of this month.

Now that cleanup is nearly complete in the superior residential area, DEQ officials say they can turn their attention here, to the Flat Creek watershed, an area scarred by the West Mullan Fire. The DEQ and the forest service are heading up cleanup efforts in the drainage area, and they'll likely haul contaminants to the EPA Repository Site. EPA officials say the contaminants won't affect human health unless they're somehow inhaled or consumed.

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